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In re Guardianship of L.O.

Court of Appeals of Iowa

March 22, 2017

IN RE THE MATTER OF THE GUARDIANSHIP OF L.O. and D.O. HEIDI LYNN ORTMANN, Petitioner-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Plymouth County, Duane E. Hoffmeyer, Judge.

         A mother appeals the probate court's decision denying her request to terminate a guardianship of her minor children.

          Tara S. Vonnahme of Vonnahme Law, P.C., Sioux City, for appellant.

          Kelsey Bauerly Langel of Trotzig & Bauerly, P.L.C., LeMars, and Jenny L. Winterfeld of Winterfeld Law, P.L.C., Sioux Center, for appellees.

          Joseph W. Kertels, Sioux City, guardian ad litem.

          Considered by Mullins, P.J., and Bower and McDonald, JJ.

          BOWER, Judge.

         A mother appeals the district court's decision denying her request to terminate the guardianship of her minor children. The mother claims the district court improperly refused to apply the parental preference, violated her fundamental right to parent, and applied the incorrect burden of proof. We find the district court properly found the parental preference had been weakened or eliminated, did not violate the fundamental right to parent, and determined the correct burden of proof. Therefore, we affirm.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         The mother placed L.O. and D.O. in a guardianship with their paternal aunt in 2014. The guardianship was established at the suggestion of the mother's attorney as, according to the mother, "she was told she could opt to voluntarily place the children into a guardianship . . . allowing her to get her children back if she turned her life around, or face potential termination proceedings." The guardianship was not opposed by any party, and the juvenile court case was closed. The guardianship case was opened in the district court.

         Since the establishment of the guardianship, the mother has made progress. The district court found she has been "clean and sober and employed." She also has stable housing and a valid driver's license. The mother has paid child support throughout the guardianship. However, at times during the guardianship, the mother continued to have significant issues. She was convicted of operating while intoxicated, and driving while her license was suspended, had her parole and work release revoked, and admitted to continued use of marijuana for several months after the guardianship was established.

          The guardians have limited, and at times prohibited, contact between the mother and her children. The mother's family is allowed contact, but any contact between the mother and the children has been closely scrutinized by the guardians.

         The mother petitioned for termination of the guardianship and parenting time in February 2016. After trial, the district court denied the termination of the guardianship but granted limited visitation once a month. The mother now appeals.

         II. ...


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